Boston Bruins President and hall of famer Cam Neely addressed the media Friday, and as general manager Don Sweeney told reporters after his team clinched the Eastern Conference Final, Neely credited the team-first attitude that transcends from upper management, down through to the hockey operations staff, to Bruce Cassidy and his staff and ultimately to the players.
Just over two years ago, this team seemed to be in complete disarray when they fired Claude Julien the same day the Patriots had another Super Bowl Championship parade and then promoted Cassidy from Providence in the AHL. Media and fans alike were calling for Neely’s head as well and now, two years later, the Bruins have ascended from making the playoffs to the second round and their third Stanley Cup Final in eight years–and the third Cup appearance during Neely’s tenure as President.
“Well, you have to have some luck, but more importantly it’s having good people in place,” Neely said Friday. “I’m not a micromanager. I want the people we hire to do their jobs, and if they don’t do their jobs, then we’ll have a discussion. Or if they’re not doing their jobs to the best of their ability, then we’ll have a discussion, not unlike a coach talking to a player. For me, it’s about trying to find the best people and let them go to work and do their jobs. I think I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of really great people of the hockey side and a lot of really good people on the business side, so for me, it’s about having conversations. It’s not just about putting out fires. It’s about constant communication; conversations. Whether it’s obviously with Don, the coaching staff. That’s one of the reasons I like to travel with them because you have more opportunity to talk with players and coaches than you normally do at home.”
In the days since the Eastern Conference final ended in a Bruins’ sweep of the Hurricanes, Bruins players credited the team’s preseason trip to China as great team-bonding experience, and Friday Neely did the same explaining how it got everyone from management to players on the same page.
“Well, I always looked at it as a great opportunity for team building. Although, we had a little bit of a split-squad, split coaching staff, the guys that did go there I thought it was a great team-building experience, not unlike when we went to Ireland and Prague. It gave us an opportunity to get together as a group and be together as a group for a length of time that you don’t normally get in the preseason. You’re zipping in and out of cities, and to have that opportunity was great for the guys. And I give them credit because they really embraced it.”
Since then Neely has understood just how great Sweeney and the pro and amateur scouts not only drafted, or signed or traded for talent but also and equally important, valued character.
“Being around for as many years as I have, you get to know them as people and not just what they do on the ice,” Neely pointed out. “It’s really a great group of guys. The leadership that they have and how they have mentored a number of players throughout the years has been impressive to me. Well, it’s been very important to me to make sure we have good quality people. Not just the players, but the staff, the coaching staff, trainers, our staff in the office. I want to make sure we have good quality people that care about each other, care about the success for each other. It’s not a solo mentality. We’re all pulling on the same rope, the same way.”